News: Ecocities Emerging June 2012

For Ecocity Builders, June represents the culmination of ten months of engagement with the United Nations and the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or "Rio+20" (the UN conference meets again in Rio de Janeiro Brazil, 20 years after the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio in 1992). Over 40,000 people are expected to attend. We will be in Rio during the entire event, speaking, conducting side events with our partners, attending forums and participating in the dialogues ongoing. In addition, Richard Register will be representing us at the ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability World Congress in Belo Horizonte Brazil just prior to Rio+20. 
Our contribution to the process has centered on sharing the basic ecocity principles we've been advocating and developing for over thirty years; condensed into the International Ecocity Framework and Standards (IEFS) initiative. Importantly, the notion of universally applicable and locally adaptable principles and indicators for healthy cities and human settlements, such as those underway with the IEFS initiative, has struck a strong chord of resonance with the UN and the groups involved with Rio+20.  
Our hope for Rio+20 is for a collective way forward to a much healthier future to emerge - along with a framework for action based on shared principles and commitment. If countries took coordinated action towards a shared vision of sustainable development - cities and human settlements in balance with nature and culture - we could make rapid and meaningful progress towards true sustainability, and in fact, if we set our minds and actions to the task, we could stop global climate change, launch the 'green economy', restore the biosphere and eradicate poverty. The stakes are very high now for the future health and well being of people and planet. There are 2 billion more people here now than there were twenty years ago and over 3,000 more species are considered at risk of extinction. The world is far behind carbon dioxide emissions targets set by the Kyoto Protocol. Since 1990, carbon dioxide emissions have risen 19 percent, more than 25 percent behind goals set forth under Kyoto.   
But although the times cry out for a new course of global shared action to emerge, as observers of the negotiations in the lead up to Rio+20, we have a new appreciation for the immense difficulties in negotiating a global agreement on anything, let alone how to best save our planet and restructure our economies around sustainable principles. Only time will tell and we hope that we're proved wrong, but we feel that it is unlikely that Rio+20 will be a launching pad for one clear set of coordinated actions to usher in a global green economy while eradicating poverty and saving the environment. It's not that we don't know how to do it -- it's that countries can't figure out how to work together in a fair and equitable manner and they can't decide how to break through the current business-as-usual economic global structure and financing mechanisms that are currently so embedded in their own governance systems.  
In any case, Rio+20 will seed hundreds of small to large sustainability inspired commitments, agreements, partnerships, and collaborations. Theoretically, if the seeds planted at Rio+20 continue to be nourished, the cumulative impact of many unofficial agreements, pledges and commitments could be just as important as one big official negotiated agreement by the member states.  
In the spirit of building collaborative networks and projects, Ecocity Builders has formed several important new partnerships over the past 10 months. From June forward, we will continue to cultivate and grow the seeds that we've planted at Rio. We'd like to acknowledge some of our new partners and associates: ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability; nonprofit information technology company Ushahidi; nonprofit Mozilla Foundation; GIS mapping software and data company Esri; the Association of American Geographers; the CSR (Community Sustainability and Resilience) Special Initiative; Transition Town Santa Teresa and Catalytic Communities in Rio de Janeiro; the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; The Mega Cities Project, Gaia Education, and the US State Department, as well as a number of growing relationships within the UN system, including UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UN Habitat, UN Environment Program and UNICEF.  
We'd also like to gratefully acknowledge our members and associates who have worked hard to help prepare and support our participation with the UN over the last 10 months: Shivang Patwa, Kelley Lemon, Ashoka Finley, Sven Eberlein, Diana Divecha, Joell Jones, Richard Smith, Ana Puhac and Naomi Grunditz.
And last but certainly by no means least... We are very excited to announce that in collaboration with C&P Architects, Ecocity Builders has launched a branch office in Bejing China. After a dozen years of collaboration and exchange with China's cities, academics, professionals and government, we will now have a presence closer to the ecocity action in China. Together with our Chinese associates, we will aspire to accelerate and evolve ecocity building in China. Stay tuned for more information and updates.  
As we build, so shall we live. 

Kirstin Miller
Executive Director